Bill Gates-backed coronavirus home testing program back online after FDA suspension

The program can't return test results taken before May 12, however

A Seattle coronavirus home testing program backed by billionaire Bill Gates is back online after being suspended in May by the FDA, which said the program needed additional approval to share test results with individuals.

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The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network is funded by Gates Ventures. Gates' private office is also based in Seattle, an early hotbed for the virus.

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"SCAN continues to provide an important and unique window into the COVID-19 outbreak across King County, and in its next phase will also help us expand access to testing for at-risk groups,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, a Seattle and King County health official, said in a statement referring to the assessment network. “This data can inform public health decisions in the weeks and months to come as King County takes steps to increase activities and get back to work.”

The assessment network began returning test results again on Wednesday after beginning institutional review board approval and oversight from the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as required by the FDA. The assessment network won't be able to return results for tests submitted before it halted on May 12.

(L-R) Phoebe Adele Gates, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates attend the Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

The assessment network is also pursuing an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Gates, who has been at the center of discussions about how the world can fight coronavirus, said he was "excited" about the assessment network in a May blog post titled "Scanning for answers to a pandemic," before the study was put on hold.

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"I want to be clear that SCAN does not replace the widespread testing that is still needed in communities," Gaates wrote. "But it has the potential to become an important tool for health officials seeking insights about the spread and behavior of the virus. Early results from SCAN found many cases of COVID-19 in Seattle that might otherwise have gone undetected."

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